Reevaluating Andrea Antico’s Frottole of 1517

April 30, 2020

Alexander Meszler’s performances and research aim to inspire new perspectives on the organ. He spent 2018–2019 in Versailles, France, on a Fulbright grant to study secularism and the organ. In 2020, he completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ at Arizona State University with Kimberly Marshall. He is a member of The Diapason’s 20 Under 30 Class of 2019.

In December 1516, Pope Leo X revoked Ottaviano Petrucci’s exclusive 1513 privilege to print keyboard intabulations. A lesser-known publisher, Andrea Antico, was awarded rights to the genre. Just one month later, January 1517, Antico delivered Italy its first collection of printed keyboard music, Frottole intabulate da sonare organi, Libro primo (henceforth, Frottole intabulate). This collection is the first known publication of keyboard music in Italy, the second known keyboard publication anywhere (after Arnolt Schlick’s Tabulatur etlicher Lobesang of 1512), and the second extant collection—manuscript or published—of keyboard music in Italy (after the fifteenth-century Codex Faenza, Biblioteca Comunale 117).1 No other collection is single-genre, and no other similar collection is almost entirely secular in content. Though future Italian keyboard collections continued to include song intabulations, no other publication represents the late-fifteenth, early-sixteenth century frottola genre.

Clearly, Frottole intabulate is special if only based on the merits of its innovative, first-of-its-kind, and in some respects, one-of-a-kind status. Yet in histories and critiques of early keyboard literature, the collection is consistently received coldly. In a textbook on historical performance, Jon Laukvik, without abridgment, writes only,

Frottole intabulate da sonare organi libro primo, published in 1517 by Andrea Antico, are the first Italian keyboard works to appear in print. These frottole, intabulations of simple songs, are in four parts throughout and contain ornamental flourishes (groppi) already familiar to us.2

Even more apathetically, Willi Apel writes: “as the title indicates, it [Frottole intabulate] contains only intabulations of frottole, and is thus of little interest for the history of keyboard music.”3 If Frottole intabulate is so unique, why has it been received unenthusiastically?

While “reevaluate” in the title of this essay might on the surface seem disingenuous given Frottole intabulate’s obscurity to today’s keyboardists, the reality remains that there is a substantial body of writing related to this collection. Reevaluate, then, is to reexamine and perhaps “re-present” the body of scholarship related to the collection, but also to reconsider its value as keyboard music for listeners and performers of today. I begin by presenting a brief overview of Antico’s life and the contents of Frottole intabulate. Next, I contextualize the keyboard collection within the framework of early print culture by considering aspects of economics, reception, genre, authorship, instrumentation, and Frottole intabulate’s famous frontispiece. Finally, I analyze the intabulation technique in Antico’s collection, proving that the difficulty and artistic merit are well-situated with other contemporaneous compositions and arrangements.

Andrea Antico

The most comprehensive secondary source on Andrea Antico, both for his life and music, is Catherine Weeks Chapman’s more than four-hundred-page Harvard University dissertation from 1964.4 Though not impossible to obtain a copy, her document is not widely available. Chapman’s work, though significantly dated, is thorough and is still the baseline source for the Grove Music Online encyclopedia entry on Antico by Martin Picker. Figure 1 is compiled from these sources and may serve as a reference point and visual guide to Antico’s life; this chart and the following sketch of Antico’s life and publications serve as an outline, not a comprehensive biography.

It is not uncommon that the lives of sixteenth-century figures be shrouded in a degree of ambiguity, and Antico is no exception. However, since publishers were held in high regard and typically claimed ownership of their work, the level of uncertainty related to Antico’s biography is unusual. Antico began his life sometime around 1480 in Montona, present day Croatia, then governed by Venice. Some editors and authors have confused Montona with Mantua. It is not known why or when he moved, but Antico’s first work surfaced in Rome around 1510. During this early part of his career, Antico was exceptionally prolific. Chapman states,

From 1510 through 1521, Antico actually produced more music books than Petrucci—a great many more if reprints are included. But it is less the volume of Antico’s output than his use of a printing method fundamentally different from Petrucci’s that makes him an important figure in the early history of music printing.5

Not only was Antico a prolific printer, but he also worked by using woodcuts instead of movable type, the method used by Petrucci. Antico was Petrucci’s first significant competitor. Although Petrucci produced the first prints of polyphonic music, Antico was the first to do so in Rome in 1510 with Canzoni nove con alcune scelte de varii libri di canto (henceforth, Canzoni nove). It was during his years in Rome that Antico produced Frottole intabulate, his only collection for the keyboard.

Between 1518 and 1520 Antico was in partnership with the Giunta family of printers in Venice. Nothing is known about why he moved north or the circumstances around why he partnered with another printer, but Antico’s name continued to be featured prominently in his work. After this, for more than ten years between 1522 and 1533, references to Antico disappear. It is likely that he continued his work in Venice with the Giunta family or some other publisher. Still in Venice, Antico resurfaces in 1533 working with the Scotto family of publishers. During this time period, he produced what might be considered his magnum opus, Mottetti di Adrian Willaert, libro secondo a Quattro voci (1539). After this publication, little more is known about Antico’s life.

Frottole intabulate da sonare organi, Libro primo (1517)

The frottola (frottole, plural) is a genre of secular Italian song that was popular during the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries. It is widely considered to be a predecessor to the emerging, more complex, and now more well-known madrigal.6 The frottola generally contains a text with lighthearted themes and elements of humor. Frequently strophic, any discernible text painting quickly dissolves. Thus, at least in theory, the frottola can be easily accommodated by textless versions like keyboard intabulations. Intabulations are arrangements of vocal pieces for an instrument, particularly keyboard or lute.

Frottole intabulate is a collection of twenty-six frottola intabulations for keyboard. As is the case with most early music, certain aspects of performance practice are and will probably always remain unknown. Maria Luisa Baldassari suggests that there are numerous possible ways to perform the music in Antico’s collection including as an accompaniment for a solo voice or as works for keyboard alone.7 Until recently there were two original surviving copies of Frottole intabulate, one in Prague (National Museum, Nostitz Library) and another in Milan (Private Library Polesini), but the Milan copy (originally missing a single folio) has been lost. All but two vocal models survive in other Antico publications that predate Frottole intabulate.8 One of the remaining two intabulations exists in a Petrucci publication that also predates Frottole intabulate, and the other has no known vocal model.9

Frottole intabulate does not include the original texts other than what is provided in the title, but many of the songs would have been very well known. Even though frottola texts are generally lighthearted, the lyrics are important to a successful interpretation of the pieces because their themes still vary significantly from song to song. Despite access to almost all the texts from the original vocal models, translations are unavailable in all the modern editions of Frottole intabulate; this is most likely due to the problematic nature of translating fifteenth- and sixteenth-century poetic Italian into modern English. I have included tentative translations of the titles in Figure 2 in an effort to increase the accessibility of this music to performers and listeners.

By including partial translations in the liner notes to his Antico recording, Glen Wilson also recognized the importance of these texts. Because he only translated lyrics that he felt particularly influenced his interpretations, some of his translations only include the title while others include significant portions of text. Some of the extended texts significantly change the meaning of the title. For instance, “Fiamma amorosa e bella” (number 13) alone translates to “Flame loving and beautiful,” but with more context from the rest of the poetry, Wilson translates, “Beautiful flame of love, why have you turned to ice?”10 Still other pieces introduce elements of humor only after the initial title like in “Che farala che dirala” (number 21), which alone becomes “What will she do when she hears?” With additional context, however, it becomes something akin to “what will she do when she hears I have become a monk?”11 Though the translations I provide in Figure 2 are a starting point, a future resource might work with an expert on literature of the Italian renaissance to complete full translations.

Figure 2 is a complete list of the contents of Frottole intabulate. It contains the number, title, tentative English translation of the title, a potential source for the intabulation, and possible original composers.

Contextualizing Antico’s frottole in the print culture of the early-sixteenth century

Very little is known about the culture of early-sixteenth-century music printing, and it is easy to imply inaccurate generalities. Stanley Boorman states,

We can hardly begin to say anything about the general acceptance of music, beyond the assumption that printed editions reached many more readers than did manuscripts.12

Boorman suggests that scholars have often arbitrarily considered smaller, less productive companies to be more important than others based on predetermined ideas about value and quality.13 Evaluating a print’s significance consists of studying, among numerous other factors, the success or lack of success of individual prints, how they were received, interrelationships of printers and patrons, and profitability. Because of the passing of time, trying to comprehend the cultural background of these prints can seem futile, but not doing so can make the music itself seem distant and irrelevant. Newer research into the early decades of music printing has unlocked many previously inaccessible aspects of the culture and music.


The printing process was expensive and time consuming; having a print in the early decades of the existence of printing technology brought the owner pride and prestige. Thus, just like the origins of the music that was composed and played in the first place, what was printed was largely controlled by patronage. As machinery and materials later became less expensive, demand for more publications also increased, and publishers needed to compete to stay in business. It is tempting to posit that this caused printing businesses to function within a framework similar to free-market capitalism, but Kate Van Orden maintains this competitiveness comes only from complexifying relationships of patronage.14 Even late in Antico’s life, but certainly for the publication of Frottole intabulate, privileges that limited the legal printing rights of different publishers were controlled by persons of authority, local governments, and even the pope. These privileges regulated the majority of competition among publishers. Disobeying a papal privilege for exclusive printing rights, for instance, could result in “excommunication, a fine, and confiscation of the offending copies.”15 The exclusivity of these privileges affected the publication of Frottole intabulate. Not only did Antico obtain a papal privilege in order to print his keyboard intabulations, but doing so also resulted in the inability of other publishers to print something similar, including Petrucci, his rival.

Aside from the complexities and cost of getting permission to print, the cost of carrying out the printing was astronomical; the cost of printing was so high, in fact, that it is difficult to ascertain why someone would venture to do it at all. For Boorman, financial gain could not have been a primary motive. Given these high costs, a print that was successful enough to result in subsequent prints would be one of the only conceivable ways to make a profit.16 In reprints, materials could be reused, saving the printer the time and money associated with making the materials for the initial print run. Thus, the existence of multiple editions or reprints could be evidence for profit of these early sources.

There are no extant copies from a second printing of Frottole intabulate, and it is unlikely that one ever existed. If nothing else can be said about the economics of Antico’s keyboard collection, it could not have been too successful since its subtitle, Libro primo, implies a future second volume which never came to fruition. While it is likely that economics was a factor in Antico’s failure to produce a second volume, this is far from verifiable and was certainly not the only factor.


Very little can be said about the reception of Frottole intabulate. As discussed above, multiple reprints can be considered a sign of positive reception and continued appreciation of musical repertoires, but it is unlikely that this occurred for Frottole intabulate. Almost nothing is known about the logistical dissemination of this collection, but there must have been some reason to print an edition of secular song intabulations: an audience, a patron, a desire to do something innovative? Since there was never a second volume, likely no reprints, no similar frottola or other single-genre keyboard publications in sixteenth-century Italy, the print was probably not a wide-ranging success.

Antico’s frontispiece

The publishing rivalry between Petrucci and Antico is apparent in Frottole intabulate. Not only did Antico’s papal privilege to print keyboard intabulations result in the revocation of Petrucci’s ability to do so, Antico flaunted it in the frontispiece to Frottole intabulate (Figure 3). This frontispiece, probably by Antico’s regular collaborator, Giovanni Battista Columba, has been interpreted in numerous ways in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is likely that the monkey holding a lute represents Petrucci because he previously published two sets of frottola arrangements for voice and lute. The woman dismisses the monkey and his lute intabulations in favor of Antico’s superior arrangements for keyboard. Antico’s decision to later publish frottola arrangements for voice and lute, a style he derided in this frontispiece can be interpreted in two chief ways: first, Antico’s Frottole intabulate was unsuccessful since lute was still the primary domestic instrument, which would be further supported by the fact that there was never a second volume of keyboard intabulations. Second, his attack on lute intabulations depicted in the title page was trivial and was of no consequence to the later publication of his own collection for lute and voice. It is probably some combination of the two of these. The important element to consider from this frontispiece is not the debatable specifics of the meaning of each of its characters and features, but rather that the very concept of intabulation for keyboard might have been controversial as a starting point at all. The frontispiece demonstrates that Frottole intabulate’s publisher was self-aware; indeed, it was the first of its kind.


The frottola was a popular genre in the late-fifteenth, early-sixteenth century. Ottaviano Petrucci, for instance, produced more than ten books of frottole. In addition to the multi-voice original frottola compositions, a tradition of single voice versions accompanied by lute developed, both improvised and in print. The fewer resources needed to execute a performance with just one or two musicians instead of an ensemble of singers allowed for greater versatility and improvisation. Anthony Cummings has examined this performance practice and found evidence that the practice of playing solo versions with self-accompanied improvised lute parts was widespread.17 Unwritten music (most music in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries) influenced publishers. Both Petrucci and Antico produced volumes of frottole for single voice accompanied by lute: Antico’s Frottole de Misser Bortolomio Tromboncino & Misser Marcheto Carra from around 1520 and Petrucci’s two books from 1509 and 1511, Tenori e contrabass intabulate col sopran in canto figurato per cantar e sonar col lauto, arranged by Franciscus Bossinensis.

There is severely limited evidence for a similar improvised tradition of performing frottole on the keyboard. If there was a significant unwritten precedent for Antico’s intabulations, it is difficult to understand why Petrucci would not have printed for the medium while he had held the papal privilege to do so. It is unlikely that there was a significant precedent for Antico’s collection. Nevertheless, as I have already stated, the frottola, which often contains texts deemed “frivolous”18 and disconnected from the music, lends itself nicely to textless versions.


Understanding authorship in the Renaissance is obscured by modern notions of intellectual property and copyright. Van Orden states,

Though the notion clashes with modern definitions of authorship, one could say that it was not composers who authored printed books, but printers, printer-booksellers, and editors.19

Composers were not able to title their own music in anthology publications and their music was “rebranded” to suit the needs of the publisher. The frontispiece of a different Antico publication, Liber quindecim missarum (1516), visually demonstrates the prominence of the publisher over the composer. While Antico provides the names of the composers in its table of contents (Figure 4), the more prominent title page shows only Antico and his audience with Pope Leo X (Figure 5).20 Given the beauty of the entirety of this Antico anthology (see Figure 6), one can begin to understand the printer’s prominence.

The elevated importance of publisher over composer in the Renaissance can be seen in Frottole intabulate. Van Orden states, “once again, Antico visually claims authorship of the volume, even though it is devoted almost entirely to the Frottole of Bartolomeo Tromboncino.”21 In the case of Frottole intabulate, unlike Liber quindecim missarum, there is an added layer: arrangement. Many past scholars have attempted to attribute or unattribute the arrangement of the frottole in this publication to Antico himself. There is not adequate evidence for or against such an attribution. This lack of information regarding who arranged the songs for keyboard can serve as yet more evidence that musical factors were less important than the publications themselves.

Conflicting attributions among different publications with the same content are pervasive in the early decades of music printing. This further illustrates the indifference publishers had for original authorship since correct attributions were clearly a lower priority than the overall quality of the publication. For example, “Fiamma Amorosa e bella,” number 13 in Frottole intabulate, first appears as number 6 in Canzoni sonetti strambotti et frottole, Libro tertio (henceforth, Libro tertio) and is ascribed to Marco Cara (Marchetto Cara).22 In the 1520 reprint in Venice with Giunta it is anonymous and in Frottole intabulate it is attributed to Bartolomeo Tromboncino. Both Christopher Hogwood and Peter Sterzinger, editors of two modern editions of Frottole intabulate, seem to ignore this issue. Sterzinger simply keeps the attributions from Frottole intabulate, while Hogwood does not include attributions, yet provides references to all the vocal sources. Hogwood’s preface seems as though he is aware of the issue but is unsure how to approach it. Maria Luisa Baldassari, the editor of another modern edition, does not dwell on the issue of attribution, but she denotes possibilities above each individual piece.

Another type of borrowing in early print culture involves using the previously printed content of other publishers. It is common to see repeated pieces among competing publishers without noting who published it first. For example, Antico’s Canzoni nove borrowed nearly half of its contents from Petrucci, his direct competitor. A publication like Frottole Intabulate is embedded in the notion of borrowing given the nature of arrangements.

Separately, composers worked to gain their own independent identity in print. Significantly later, in 1554, for instance, Palestrina paid for the publication of a high-quality volume of his own music.23 Similarly, one can look as far back as Petrucci’s Josquin publication, the first publication dedicated to a single composer. While it is possible that this is a humanistic turn (the rising importance of the singular creative mind associated with the Renaissance), this is likely not the case. Boorman maintains that the publication of single-composer volumes like those by Petrucci (inclusive of Josquin, Obrecht, and Brumel) are probably an attempt to gain the favor of composers or flatter them into taking a position somewhere.24 When composers did finally accomplish the publication of their own oeuvre, the line of authorship remained blurred: another publisher, Valerio Dorico, took inspiration from Antico’s frontispiece to Liber quindecim missarum for the publication of Cristóbal de Morales’s Missarum liber secundus in 1544. Dorico later modified this woodcut yet again to serve as the famous title page of Palestrina’s Missarum liber primus of 1554 (Figure 7). Although Dorico modified the woodcut from the version he used from the Morales publication, the changes were minimal; the music that Palestrina is holding actually belongs to Morales.25 Despite almost forty years of separation, Palestrina’s frontispiece remains strikingly similar to Antico’s (see Figure 5).

The overall lack of information is not the only reason that making an attribution to Antico himself as the arranger of Frottole intabulate is not possible: publishers were not commonly musicians. Van Orden states,

Though many [publishers] had or acquired some musical literacy, none were composers. Rather, they were inventors, printers, engravers, woodcutters, type founders, and booksellers, developers of a new technology.26

Though not frequently musicians themselves, there is no doubt that publishers possessed remarkable talent. Nevertheless, Antico’s musical literacy and abilities remain ambiguous at best. There is not enough biographical evidence to draw any conclusions regarding his abilities as a musician. On the other hand, given that he signed them, it is possible that two of his own frottole appear in Libro tertio.27 Kimberly Marshall summarizes,

Who actually arranged the pieces for keyboard is not known, but in the absence of precise attributions, it has been assumed that the publisher Antico was himself the transcriber.28

While Marshall questions the assumption that Antico arranged the frottole, Glen Wilson, going a step further, categorically denies such an attribution:

[Antico] was also clever in his choice of arranger (it was not Antico himself, as is often thought, any more than the printer/publisher Attaingnant arranged the first lute publications in France around the same time, or than Bennett Cerf wrote Ulysses). This anonymous master, doubtless one of the countless Italian organists whose works have been lost, produced a very early example of a fully-balanced polyphonic keyboard style. In 1517 Josquin still had four years to live, and voice crossings and gothicisms still frequently appear even in frottole. In Antico’s book there is a radical change: generally keeping the all-important melody and bass lines free and intact (except for modest amounts of added ornamentation), the arranger substituted supple, idiomatic inner voices for the spiky originals, which are often mere filler. Once the notational fog is dispersed, his work turns out to deserve a place of high honour in the annals of music history.29

Wilson’s ideas about the need for a skilled and creative arranger to set the idiomatic inner voices in Frottole intabulate are further supported in my analysis below. However, Wilson provides no concrete evidence for his categorical rejection of Antico as arranger. Ultimately though, the focus of who arranged the frottole is probably a misguided question in the first place—one raised by a modern perspective. If anything is to be learned from this discussion of authorship in early print culture, who arranged the frottole was inconsequential.


Intended instrumentation of early keyboard music is frequently a source of mystery. The frontispiece of Frottole intabulate (Figure 3) shows the collection being performed on a stringed keyboard instrument. However, as is usually the case for early music, the pieces can certainly be performed on other keyboard instruments. In the preface to his edition of Frottole intabulate, Christopher Hogwood states,

Nothing in the style of the intabulations suggests a preference for one type of keyboard instrument over another, and the title-page illustration itself reinforces the interpretation of “organo” as meaning any keyboard instrument—a usage that was normal in Italian for several centuries.30

The shorter compass of sixteenth-century organs (starting on F) that is evidenced by existing organs and treatises not only suits most of the ranges of the frottole, it accounts for the transposition of several of them; numbers 5, 11, 12, 21, 22, and 23 are all transposed up a fourth or fifth.31 Modern recordings have generally favored the harpsichord over the organ, but Baldassari’s recording persuasively makes the musical case for using many different instruments. While they are playable on many instruments, there are characteristics of each keyboard that favor different styles. For instance, I find that “Me lasserà tu mo” (number 24), if played slowly, is enhanced by performance on the organ to accommodate the sustained tones. A testament to the instrumentation’s flexibility, Baldassari successfully uses the spinetta for the same piece. If approached creatively and openly, there are a great many possibilities for instrumentation, including the addition of text with a singer.

Intabulation technique: an analysis

An analysis of characteristics in Antico’s keyboard intabulations and the intabulation technique itself reveals that the simplicity of this collection has been overstated. Comparing Antico’s frottole with Marcantonio Cavazzoni’s Recerchari, motetti, canzoni . . . libro primo from 1523 reveals many similarities, both in terms of intabulation technique and performance difficulty. Though the textures are different due to the frottola’s less complex contrapuntal starting structure, the technical difficulty and aesthetic results are comparable.

Through pointing out shared characteristics of Cavazzoni’s “Plus ne regres” and Antico’s “Dolce ire dolci sdegni” (number 18) and “Che farala che dirala” (number 21), Figures 8 and 9 demonstrate similarities between the Antico and Cavazzoni intabulations. In Figure 8, both examples have surface-level ornamentation in the cantus part (circled in yellow). This ornamentation is generally stepwise with few leaps, almost always in the opposite direction than the way the line was previously moving. Both examples also have non-cantus ornamentation and elements of moving counterpoint (circled in blue). While moving inner voices might seem like a given, the reception of the Antico pieces as somehow simpler or completely homophonic is not demonstrated in these excerpts. From a technical perspective, both examples include challenging left-hand position changes (circled in green). While these hand position changes hardly constitute “difficult,” they are markedly active and noticeably similar.

A comparison of different excerpts reveals another similarity. Both Antico’s “Che farala che dirala” (number 21) and Cavazzoni’s “Plus ne regres” demonstrate a consistent use of parallel thirds in one hand (Figure 9, circled in red). In addition to considering the thirds as a musical element, they also present a technical challenge of comparable difficulty.

One significant difference not evidenced by these examples is that these musical elements are almost always present in the Cavazzoni and not always in the Antico (entire Antico pieces not presented here lack these elements). Figure 9, for instance, involved using a different Antico intabulation than Figure 8, while the same Cavazzoni piece could be retained. Antico’s pieces generally mix fewer elements than Cavazzoni’s. While it is possible to attribute this difference to less artistic merit of the Antico, these differences are better explained by the type of pieces they are arranging for keyboard in the first place. The motet is a longer, more complex, and freer form than the frottola. The simplicity of some of Antico’s intabulations is symptomatic of the straightforwardness of the frottola genre as well as specific elements of single pieces. Nevertheless, in isolated examples like those provided in Figures 8 and 9, it is difficult to distinguish between the two genres.

Since there is an extant copy of almost all the original vocal models for the arrangements in Frottole intabulate, it is possible to place the intabulations side-by-side with the vocal originals to illustrate the degree of difference between the two. Using a prototype comparative graphing system, I demonstrate that the intabulations of the original vocal models are less exact than has often been assumed. This approach removes the complexities of musical notation allowing for measure-by-measure comparison between the vocal original and the intabulation. The system is temporally oriented, meaning that each column represents one voice for one measure. Measure numbers are indicated along the x-axis, and the voices from the vocal model as they relate to the intabulation are along the y-axis. Thus, there is one “cell” for each voice per measure. The shading within these “cells” represents differences between the vocal model and the intabulation. There are three degrees of shading: (1) no shading if the voice in the intabulation is identical to the vocal original; (2) light grey if a voice is embellished in an easy-to-categorize manner; and (3) dark grey if the voice is altered in a hard-to-categorize manner or does not resemble the original model. This macro level analysis leaves many details undescribed, and because of this, there is a significant degree of subjectivity. If the analysis system was refined to be more precise, this subjectivity would all but disappear, but the distillation would also necessarily be more complex.

My goal is not to design a complex analysis system, but rather to uncover general characteristics about the Antico intabulations, I have opted to keep the system simpler, sacrificing specificity that would reduce subjectivity. Since there is currently no systematic way to do an analysis of intabulation technique, a refinement of this graphing system could be useful for analyzing intabulation technique across the repertoire. However, in its current state, it gleans only the most basic information about differences between vocal originals and their intabulations.

This system is put into practice to analyze the differences between “Amor Quando fioriva mia speme,” number 1 in Frottole intabulate, with the vocal model from Antico’s second book of frottole (Figure 10).32 The comparative graphic model of “Amor Quando fioriva mia speme” reveals that it is far from a simple note-for-note intabulation of the vocal original. It seems to indicate the opposite: Antico’s setting is as complex and irregular as it is categorical. By calculating the average number of “cells” that contain alterations from the vocal original, this comparative graphic model reveals that slightly over 58% of the piece’s measures include at least one alteration from the vocal original. Because of the system’s need to define temporal units (here, one measure), this percentage indicates the number of measures that contain alterations. In other words, the 58% does not indicate the exact percentage difference between the original and the intabulation because the measure unit does not account for every note. A percentage difference that accounted for every note would result in a significantly lower number.

Out of all of the “cells” that include a difference, only 34% contain easily categorizable alterations. This seems like a very low number, but it is important to note than many of the embellishments that modern ears associate with “easy to categorize” were less common in the renaissance. Some ornamentation and embellishment in the Antico intabulations may be more categorical than this system assumed. Thus, 58% of the overall number of cells is a more useful and accurate number.

As Glen Wilson identifies in his liner notes, the inner voices of the intabulations in Antico’s collection are significantly altered: “the arranger substituted supple, idiomatic inner voices for the spiky originals.”33 Figure 10 supports Wilson’s claim because around 75% of the interior “cells” in the comparative graphic model contain alterations, and well more than half of these are substantial.

An analysis of only the outer voices, the cantus and bassus, indicates that a much lower percentage of “cells” contain alterations. 42% of the two outer voices include changes, but this time, 63% of that 42% are easily categorizable differences. This indicates two things: (1) keeping the outer voices recognizable, either by having a lower total amount of alterations or using far fewer uncategorizable alterations, is a priority, probably to retain the essential characteristics of the original song; and (2) large amounts of voice crossing in the vocal original make it impossible to set the inner voices with a high degree of accuracy while the outer voices are easier to retain. Another noticeable but predictable element is that the bassus contains significantly fewer alterations than does the more adventurous cantus. This aligns with what was likely the performance practice of embellishing the melody.

Another piece in the collection, “Per Mio Ben te Vederei” (number 2), further demonstrates the high rate at which the cantus is altered while the bassus remains virtually unchanged (Figure 11). Around 71% of the measures in “Per Mio te Vederei” contain alterations in the cantus voice, and 63% of that 71% are not easily categorizable. Meanwhile, only around 10% of the measures contain alterations in the bassus voice.

Based on these prototype analyses, it seems safe to conclude that an experienced musician, beyond someone who has basic musical literacy, would be required to arrange a polyphonic song as skillfully as has been done in Antico’s collection. Significantly more conclusive data could be drawn if this kind of note-for-note comparative analysis was done for the entire collection of intabulations as well as if the system was further refined. However, even in its present state, these analyses demonstrate that Antico’s collection is well situated and comparable in difficulty with other contemporaneous keyboard music.

Editions, recordings, and conclusions

Given the obscurity of this collection, it is surprising that there are several modern editions of Frottole intabulate. The most extensive preface is in Christopher Hogwood’s edition published by Zen-On Music in 1984.34 Although still worthwhile, its editorial practices are less consistent and some of the ideas in its preface are dated. Another modern edition by Peter Sterzinger published by Doblinger is widely available.35 I highly recommend the most recent edition, which is edited by Maria Luisa Baldassari and published by Ut Orpheus.36

There are also several complete recordings of the collection. Fabio Antonio Falcone performs the entire keyboard oeuvre of Marcantonio Cavazzoni and Andrea Antico in The Renaissance Keyboard produced by Brilliant Classics in 2015.37 He uses the organ for the Cavazzoni and the harpsichord for the Antico. As previously mentioned, Glen Wilson has also recorded the complete collection. To affect, his recording, Animoso mio desire: 16th-Century Italian Keyboard Favourites, produced by Naxos in 2015,38 is mixed with dances from manuscript sources. All his performances are on harpsichord or spinetta. My own complete recording is the only to use exclusively the organ. Experimental in nature, my unproduced recording was made in conjunction with a related research project on early secular keyboard music across Europe.39 I most highly recommend Maria Luisa Baldassari’s complete recording, Andrea Antico: Frottole Intabulate, Libro Primo, 1517, produced by Tactus in 2017.40 Her recording embraces, to great success, the instrumentation possibilities of the collection. Her performance includes the spinetta, clavichord, clavisimbalum, harpsichord, and organ. Her choices are effective, but there is no reason performers should feel obliged to adhere to her instrumentation decisions. While I generally prefer Baldassari’s interpretations, much can be learned from the varied tempi and stylistic choices of many of the other performances.

There are innumerable recordings that only include several pieces. In many ways these recordings are more successful since listening to twenty-six intabulations in the same style is not particularly captivating. While I do not intend to provide a complete list, two notable recordings of this type are Kimberly Marshall’s Sienese Splendor, produced by Loft in 200241 and, though it only includes one of Antico’s frottole, Francesco Cera’s The Organ at European Courts produced by Brilliant Classics in 2016.42

Antico’s frottole, now more than five hundred years old, still sound fresh if given the energy of a thoughtful performer. This short essay revisits two areas, cultural context and musical analysis, to inspire new interpretations of this collection. Though frequently acknowledged, Antico’s collection has been largely ignored for its contents. The only factor that seems to attract attention to Frottole intabulate is that it was innovative, but this was relatively unimportant during its time. If given the chance, the music transcends simple innovation. The song intabulations in Antico’s collection can be charming, fun, serious, emotional, and intensely beautiful. The short duration of almost all its pieces (some can be less than one minute!) make them easily programmable in a variety of modern contexts. With a little creativity and musical imagination, these pieces can come to life.

The research for this project was completed in part thanks to funding from The Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.


1. The intended instrumentation of the Faenza collection has been debated. See Timothy J. McGee, “Once again, the Faenza Codex: A reply to Roland Eberlein,” Early Music 20:3 (August 1992): 466–68; Roland Eberlein, “The Faenza Codex: music for organ or for lute duet?” Early Music 20:3 (August 1992): 460–66; and Timothy J. McGee, “Instruments and the Faenza Codex,” Early Music 14:4 (November 1986): 480–90.

2. Jon Laukvik, Historical Performance Practice in Organ Playing: An Introduction based on selected Organ Works of the 16th–18th Centuries, trans. Brigitte and Michael Harris (Stuttgart: Carus, 1996), 113.

3. Willi Apel, The History of Keyboard Music to 1700, trans. Hans Tischler (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1997), 109.

4. Catherine Weeks Chapman, “Andrea Antico,” microfilm (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1964).

5. Ibid., 1.

6. Grove Music Online, s.v. “Frottola,” accessed January 14, 2019,

7. Baldassari, v.

8. Antico’s second book of frottole is of questionable origins. What seems like an existing copy is missing its title page in the Biblioteca Marucelliana in Florence. This particular copy is probably a reprint from around 1520.

9. Giuseppe Radole cited a manuscript in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze as containing the bass part to number 3. However, Baldassari has determined that this was initially incorrect and, despite being an error, has been repeated by editors who had not seen the Florence manuscript. Maria Luisa Baldassari, ed., Frottole intabulate da sonare organi, Libro primo, Andrea Antico, 1517 (Bologna: Ut Orpheus Edizioni, 2016), v. In addition to existing in Petrucci’s eleventh book of frottole, Christopher Hogwood has suggested that number 19 may have been in Antico’s lost fifth book of frottole. This would make number 19 the only intabulation that was published before its vocal model, and there is no reason beyond wild speculation to assume this would be the case. Christopher Hogwood, ed., Frottole da sonare organi, Libro primo, Andrea Antico, 1517 (Tokyo: Zen-On Music, 1984), 6.

10. Glen Wilson, Animoso mio desire: 16th-Century Italian Keyboard Favourites, liner notes, Naxos 8.572983, 2015, 5.

11. Ibid., 6.

12. Ibid., 131.

13. Stanley Boorman, “Thoughts on the Popularity of Printed Music in 16th-Century Italy,” Fontes artis musicae 48:2 (April 2001): 130.

14. Kate Van Orden, “Music Books and Their Authors,” in Music, Authorship, and the Book in the First Century of Print (Berkley, California: University of California Press, 2013), 36.

15. Ibid.

16. Boorman, 132–134.

17. Anthony M. Cummings, “The ‘Great Italian Songbook’ of the early cinquecento: Arrangements of frottole for voice and lute,” Studi musicali 2:1 (2011): 25-48.

18. Grove Music Online, s.v. “Frottola.”

19. Van Orden, 30.

20. Ibid., 31.

21. Ibid., 34.

22. William F. Prizer, “Local Repertories and the Printed Book: Antico’s Third Book of Frottole (1513),” in Music in Renaissance Cities and Courts: Studies in Honor of Lewis Lockwood, 347–372, eds. Jessie Ann Owens and Anthony M. Cummings (Michigan: Harmonie Park Press, 1997), 352.

23. Van Orden, 42.

24. Ibid., 44.

25. Ibid., 58–59.

26. Ibid., 38–39. She says that Gardano (Gardane) is an exception since he was a professional musician first.

27. Grove Music Online, s.v. “Andrea Antico,” accessed January 14, 2019, Some have posited that Andrea Antico is the same person as the composer of frottole featured in Petrucci’s publications called A. de Antiquis. Martin Picker, however, posits that Antico never signed his name this way and that it is unlikely that they are the same person.

28. Kimberly Marshall, ed., Historical Organ Techniques and Repertoire: An Historical Survey of Organ Performance Practices and Repertoire, vol. 9, Renaissance 1500–1550 (Colfax, South Carolina: Wayne Leupold Editions, 2004), 9.

29. Wilson, 3.

30. Hogwood, 8.

31. Ibid.

32. These analyses were completed using modern editions except the first book of frottole, which is readily accessible online. Baldassari.; Francesco Luisi, ed. Il Secondo Libro Di Frottole. Andrea Antico (Rome: Pro Musica Studium, 1976).

33. Wilson, 3.

34. Hogwood. See complete citation above.

35. Peter Sterzinger, ed., Frottole intabulate da sonare organi, Libro primo, Andrea Antico, 1517 (Vienna: Doblinger, 1984).

36. Baldassari. See complete citation above.

37. Fabio Antonio Falcone, Andrea Antico & Marc Antonio Cavazzoni: Complete Keyboard Music, Brilliant Classics BC95007, 2015, compact disc.

38. Glen Wilson, Animoso mio desire: 16th-Century Italian Keyboard Favourites, Naxos 8.572983, 2015, compact disc.

39. Alexander Meszler, “Andrea Antico: Frottole intabulate da sonare organi, Libro Primo (1517) (Complete Collection),” accessed January 14, 2019,

40. Maria Luisa Baldassari, Andrea Antico: Frottole intabulate da sonare organi, Book 1, Tactus TC480101, 2015, compact disc.

41. Kimberly Marshall, Sienese Splendor, Loft LRCD-1046, 2002, compact disc.

42. Francesco Cera, The Organ at European Courts, Brilliant Classics BC95240, 2016, compact disc.